Investing in Worker Health Drives Innovation During and Post-COVID

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact across many industries and has created unprecedented challenges across the global manufacturing ecosystem in particular. Supply chains have been disrupted, assembly lines have had to curtail production, and employee health is now a foremost concern at many manufacturing plants. Through investments in managing employee health such as adopting new technologies and implementing new workflows, manufacturers can work through the recovery and help ensure long-term growth and success. 

Social Distancing and Working Remotely

The initial days of the pandemic introduced the concept of "social distancing" as a tool to help prevent the spread of Covid-19. In response, many companies have switched to a remote working model to minimize the amount of contact between employees. However, historically, many operational processes could not be done remotely, which drove creative manufacturing  leaders to develop new workflows to accommodate social distancing. 

To start, some manufacturers have removed any unnecessary personnel from the shop floor and encouraged non-essential employees to work remotely as much as possible. In addition, members of leadership have split up into teams that do not interact directly. With leadership teams split up, this has prevented the need to quarantine the entire leadership team in the event of an outbreak. Finally, where possible, manufacturers have reconfigured employee workstations to limit interactions and prevent further transmission risk.

Adoption of New Technology

With these distancing measures in place, employees will naturally be assigned fewer distinct workstations; however, they will have more responsibilities within each station to help minimize exposure to other staff and equipment. While this presents a challenge, it also provides floor managers with an opportunity to leverage solutions that enhance workforce flexibility through the management of employee skills. The appropriate solution will enable managers to quickly identify opportunities for cross-training their employees and maximizing overall labor efficiency.

In manufacturing, many meetings have historically been conducted face-to-face. Whether it's shift handover meetings, or plant supervisors conducting gemba walks, leadership often wants to be on the floor to see where the "real work" happens. To help minimize transmission risks, some of these workflows will need to be reconfigured. For example, through video conferencing technologies, shift handover meetings can now happen remotely while still ensuring that the appropriate information is promptly relayed. In addition, handheld cameras could support managers conducting gemba walks or assisting with troubleshooting with their on-the-floor team from a remote location.

Looking Ahead

The pandemic will have long-lasting effects all over the world. Manufacturers have had to adjust their processes to adapt to this new normal. As the world continues to recover, manufacturers will have opportunities to continue to learn new best practices through this experience which will naturally increase efficiencies across their organizations. By optimizing for employee health, not only will manufacturers emerge with safer environments for their workers, but perhaps they will become more agile and productive than ever before.

Read More From Covalent